Progress 2007 Economic review & forecast

No solution in sight to fund deferred maintenance

April 21, 2007

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Jim Modig, Kansas University director of design and construction management, displays a handful of crumbling concrete and rusted steel in the underground tunnels below the university's power plant during a tour in September 2006. Modig said the repair to the tunnels was the highest priority for the university, with an estimated price tag of $8 million.

Jim Modig, Kansas University director of design and construction management, displays a handful of crumbling concrete and rusted steel in the underground tunnels below the university's power plant during a tour in September 2006. Modig said the repair to the tunnels was the highest priority for the university, with an estimated price tag of $8 million.

A rusted electrical outlet and damaged walls on the bottom floor of Lindley Hall show signs of flooding over the years. KU and other regents schools are waiting on the Kansas Legislature to decide how to fund an estimated $663 million in overdue repairs.

A rusted electrical outlet and damaged walls on the bottom floor of Lindley Hall show signs of flooding over the years. KU and other regents schools are waiting on the Kansas Legislature to decide how to fund an estimated $663 million in overdue repairs.

Video

Jim Modig, Kansas University director of design and construction management, discusses maintenance needs at KU. Enlarge video

Short of minting money or robbing banks, the Kansas Legislature looked into just about everything this year as it tried to find a way to pay for needed university repairs.

There was the governor's suggestion to boost Kansas Turnpike tolls. There was House Speaker Melvin Neufeld's suggestion that counties with universities should be able to boost their sales taxes. There was talk of using tuition dollars, athletic-ticket surcharges, and perhaps most pervasively, tax revenue from expanded gambling in Kansas.

"We need to deal with that issue this year," Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said in late March as the clock wound down on this year's legislative session.

But when the session came to an end in early April, there was still no agreement on what to do to help meet the estimated $663 million in repairs the Kansas Board of Regents says it needs at its six universities: Kansas University, Kansas State University, Emporia State, Pittsburg State, Wichita State and Fort Hays State.

The issue likely will be at the forefront starting Wednesday, when the Legislature returns for a five-day wrap-up session.

Despite the Regents' hope that gambling money could be used to pay the needed repairs, Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, said it probably wouldn't be a good idea to count on that in the short term.

"Gaming revenue is not going to be here for a couple of years. And we really need to analyze what's coming in and try not to spend that before we get it," he said.

The Regents have said they need about $100 million per year in maintenance funds- about $85 million more than they received this year.

As lawmakers worked to find a plan, the need for repairs became clear on the KU and K-State campuses.

In January, an 84-year-old asbestos-lined steam pipe burst on the K-State campus, causing classes to be canceled in several buildings.

"Basically, our campus is falling apart," K-State President Jon Wefald told the Journal-World at the time.

A few days later, classes in a room inside Malott Hall on the KU campus had to be canceled after a sewer drain pipe sprung a leak and began dripping through the ceiling.

Chemistry professor Richard Givens, who was teaching in the room where the leak happened, had the misfortune of getting a drop on his hand.

"In many ways, this is indicative of the problems the university has with maintenance of its facilities," Givens said.

Malott Hall, which opened in the 1950s, has an estimated $13 million to $14 million in maintenance needs.

Other KU academic buildings with high maintenance needs include Robinson Gymnasium ($6.4 million), Murphy Hall ($10.6 million), Haworth Hall, ($10.8 million, Learned Hall ($9.2 million), Watson Library ($8.8 million), Wescoe Hall ($6.8 million) and Spencer Research Library ($4.9 million).

A report in fall 2006 by the Board of Regents said the growth of higher education from the 1960s to the 1980s is one of the factors affecting today's crisis. Nearly 40 percent of Kansas' university space was built within that time frame, and now the buildings need major overhauls of their heating, ventilation, electrical and plumbing systems.

The regents argued this spring that addressing deferred maintenance would create thousands of construction and remodeling jobs and pump money back into the state's economy.

Scott Rothschild contributed information for this article.

Comments

oldgoof 8 years, 3 months ago

It just costs money. Pony up, Legislature.

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